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We now have a Ministry of yoga, an honorable minister for yoga and an international yoga day. A good thing but a bit like bolting the stables after the horses have escaped.
Yoga went global and fusion long ago. The question is which yoga will the honorable ministry be a custodian of?
Fizzy yoga, mace yoga, bro yoga, vinayasa yoga, power yoga, aerial yoga? The yoga taught at the Sivananda School, Bihar school, the Pattabhi Jois School, Bikram Chowdhry’s hot yoga, California yoga taught by John Friend and Friends, Iyengar yoga or Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa’s brand of Jeevamukti yoga?
The kriya yoga taught by Sri Sri Ravishankar and Shakti yoga taught by Jaggi Vasudev?
Baba Ramdev’s formidable stomach churns have created a standalone yoga and ayurveda empire and equally formidable fan club.
We are spoilt for choice.
On the face of it America seems to be the real land of yoga with a yoga centre on every street and a multi million-dollar industry in yoga gear. Think about it – we have had yoga for a thousand unbroken years or more and it didn’t even occur to us that there should be yoga gear.
Now there are dozens of yoga apps you can download and carry a virtual mat with you wherever you go.
The Patanjali format seen as the essence of yoga is summed up in 196 short sutras dedicated to lifestyle, attitude and volition. there are many translations on line.
Physical asanas are one part and breathing right is integral to the practise. There is a prescribed yogic lifestyle but the bhaav or attitude we bring to the practise is as important as the asana itself.
At a traditional class you will hear terms like vairagya and ishwar pranidhan used as effortlessly as asking you to get into dhanur asana ( bow pose) or prep for chakrasana (wheel pose)
This is the point some hatha yoga classes miss entirely. It isn’t about losing weight. Pilates will help you tone up faster and running will melt away the fat better.
Yoga is about stepping into your higher self. The mat is a microcosm for how you engage with life.
Sounds corny? It actually worksJ
Volition is important. Don’t bring your frustrations to the yoga mat or your need for achievement.
At Mumbai’s Santacruz Yoga centre, www.theyogainstitute.org four bhaavs are integrated into the practise each one helping you go deeper into different sets of asanas.
I am reproducing what Dr Jaydev taught and my understanding after doing a seven day course at the centre.
Dharma –Approach the mat with a sense of duty, a commitment to yourself and to the betterment of every cell in your body. Apply this for the meditative asanas like shavasana, mountain pose and pranayams and sideways bends or upward stretches. Forget about the rest of the class or being the best in the class.
Jnana –Be acutely aware of every aspect and movement as you go deeper into the asana. Use this for forward bends as you watch your resistance melt away in asanas like janu shirshasana ,baal asana and bandhas . You will start seeing the blocks as energy blocks, or old physical injuries acting up or just your mind being pig- headed
Vairagaya – is letting go of fear, detatchment to the results, trust that all will be well in the final outcome. Try this bhaav for getting into backward bends like camel pose, wheel pose and detoxng kriyas. Finding resistance ? Ask yourself if you have trust issues.
Aishwarya – is calm self confidence and this is a stage when you have cultivated awareness, understood that it is your dharma to cherish your body, accepted that letting go is liberating and you find nothing is too difficult on the mat -not in an achieving, competitive way but as part of the ongoing balance of mind and body.
Then it all flows together- body, breath, posture, mind and you can hold the tree pose for as long as you like or stay in warrior pose or settle into a headstand effortlessly.
The bhaavs remind us why we do yoga in the first place. That higher self thing works even if the glimpse is fleeting.